Rep. Ragan: Criticism of Comments Taken Out of Context

State Rep. John Ragan is under attack for allegedly trying to water down an anti-bullying bill and for his opposition to gay rights, with the accusations coming from his political opponent, gay rights advocates and the state Democratic Party, reports Bob Fowler.
Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, who represents most of Anderson County in the 33rd House District, is immersed in a hotly contested race with Democrat Jim Hackworth of Clinton, whom he defeated two years ago.
Hackworth renewed attacks on Ragan on Monday when he formally launched his campaign and recited allegations from the state Democratic Party and the Tennessee Equality Project, which supports same-sex marriages.
Democrats and the Tennessee Equality Project have leveled numerous accusations against Ragan, including:
n He worked to give school bullies a “free pass” by exempting politically or religiously motivated actions from classroom behaviors deemed disruptive.
n He responded to a constituent’s letter by calling sexual orientation “a description of feelings,” adding that “feelings do not control the behavior of a mentally healthy adult human being.”
n In the same response, Ragan allegedly compared homosexuals to murderers, prostitutes and pedophiles.
Ragan said many of the allegations against him were taken out of context and he described them as his rhetorical responses to questions he was asked.
“The Tennessee Equality Project and members of the Anderson County Democratic Party support gay marriage, gay adoption and other policies that I don’t agree with,” Ragan said in a prepared statement.
“If they wish to protest me and support my opponent, then that is their right.”
Ragan called gay marriage “harmful to the family.”
He denied trying to water down and exempt gay bashing from an anti-bullying bill that never made it into law.
The purpose of that bill, he said, “was to make sure that schools differentiate between bullying and students exercising their First Amendment right to express deeply held religious beliefs.”
The proposed legislation, Ragan said, did “not condone violence or bullying, and protects students by giving the authority to the school personnel to determine what is free speech, and what is bullying.”
An Anderson County man who organized a protest against Ragan outside the Lake City Municipal Building when he appeared at a town hall meeting there last week disagreed.
According to Jeremy May, if the bill had passed it would have opened “a doorway for more bullies to be protected under law.”

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